Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Extreme Contrast

I was fortunate to have a day on the Ffestiniog Narrow Guage railway recently. One of the thoughts I had was how different this railway was to mainline companies; and one in particular I used daily whilst on a contract.

In accepting the vast differences in scale the overriding difference was cultural.

The daily commuting line I used seemed to treat its customers as the enemy with revenue inspectors, penalty fares, process driven ticket staff who had no empathy or concern for anyone other than their rules and inflexible procedures. Many posters of corporate mantra of customer focus but the reality is that its staff ,who are effectively inenabled due to the corporatised nature of the organisation, have a culture of resignation and "whats the point" - this is how things are done around here.

To be fair the trains run on time, well mostly, but the experience of this large company imposes on its monopolistic customer base is quite unpleasant.

The mountain railway was the complete inverse and it was all about engagement of its staff; they loved what they did, many being volunteers, smiles and fun were the theme throughout. It is so interesting to see how culture and coporatisation of a culture can create such variance. I know this is an extreme experience comparison but the well known commuter line could learn a lot from this bunch of committed amateurs in North Wales.

My observation here is about how coporate cuture can destroy the essense of customer service and how employee engagement is so key.

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